I got my working papers 50 years ago, at age 14, in order to take over my older brother’s newspaper routes. It was not my first paid work experience – I had worked in what we now call the gig economy earlier, doing a little lawn-mowing and coal-shoveling and snow-shoveling and babysitting – but being a paperboy was kind of official, same job every day, with defined duties and supervision.
Every day after school I’d pick up my pile of the Syracuse Herald-Journal, wrap the newspaper bag around the handlebars of my messenger bike and deliver through a wide swath of the village. Radio news existed only in short newscasts and the TV news didn’t air until evening. The internet was not even a gleam in Al Gore’s eye. That meant the paper on your doorstep was your first crack at what happened in the world and the neighborhood.
Thursday before school I’d go in past the old Linotype machines (unused but too massive to be worth hauling away) to pick up the Potsdam weekly, the Courier-Freeman, and deliver it through the town before the homeroom bell rang.
And on Sunday morning, I’d show up in the dark at the distributor’s ramshackle office on Beal St. to help unload the semi trailer with the Syracuse Herald-American, which we would then assemble, tucking in the local advertising inserts before delivering.
It occurs to me that my first job was not a lot different from my current job, 50 years later. Still delivering the news. I don’t actually write the news, but I do deliver it to the many destinations that in the internet age pass for the doorstep: the front page of the website, the email newsletters, social media sites, etc. It’s a little easier on the back and knees, but it still has me up early every day, delivering the latest and the best out to a much enlarged delivery route.
And at certain times of the year, like this, I still go out collecting, just not door-to-door anymore.
How does what you’re doing now compare with your own early work experiences. Let us know in a comment below.